FARMINGTON – Those with a keen eye might have noticed fuzzy, stuffed bears popping up in windows throughout town this past week. Farmington is going on a bear hunt.
Part of a nationwide trend, residents are placing stuffed bears and other animals in their windows to add an element of lightheartedness in face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on the children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” written by Michael Rosen, the activity invites families to take walks or drives through neighborhoods to “hunt” the bears hiding in the windows.
“Going out on this bear hunt was a fun way to get out in the community and still practice social distancing,” Jessica Reynolds said. Reynolds said her family found 30 bears on their first hunt. “Seeing all the bears made my family smile. It reminded us of what a great community we live in and that we all are in this together.”
Reynolds, who has an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old, said she first heard about the bear hunts from a news story in Albuquerque and other “hunts” happening across the country. But then she noticed a co-worker, Melissa Meechan, started a local bear hunt page on Facebook.
“I was grateful to her and happy Farmington got involved,” she said.
The whole family has gotten involved in the bear hunts, Reynolds said. Both of her children have loved searching for the bears and getting out of the house.
The San Juan County Bear Hunt started March 26 with a simple Facebook event by two Farmington Municipal School teachers, Meechan and Jamie Felkner.
Meechan, who started the Facebook event and asked for Felkner’s help when the event took off in popularity, said the bear hunt activity is a great way for people to feel like they’re doing something for their community during this time.
She said it has gotten only more important because schools closed for the year to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
“Many kids don’t have places to play outside right now,” she said. “Their worlds have gotten very small. The bear hunt allows them to get out into their community without jeopardizing their safety or compromising the safety of others.”
She was surprised at how fast the event took off.
“Children and adults alike need ways to help and stay connected. The bear hunt offers an easy way for us to all feel united and less alone,” she said.
Felkner, a first grade teacher at Bluffview Elementary School, said it’s also a great way to engage children.
“This is a scary time for some kids,” she said. “They know that there is this scary virus that is making people sick and some even know it’s causing death. This was a way to do something fun for the kids.”
With the schools closed for the rest of the school year and teachers working to find new ways to interact with students remotely, the bear hunt provides an additional way to connect.
“It can also give teachers a way to engage students in writing,” Felkner said. “They can do activities that involve their ‘bear hunts.’”
While the bear hunt is a great opportunity to get outside, the organizers stressed it is important to continue practicing social distancing and should be done only with family.
“It’s about the kids and doing something for them in this uncertain time,” she said.
As of Thursday, the Facebook page has listed 78 bear sightings with more than 250 people following the event. Even local businesses have gotten in on the bear hunt. Inspire Dance Academy, The Loft and Finish Line Graphics added stuffed bears to their windows. The group has had responses from Farmington, Aztec, Flora Vista, Bloomfield and Waterflow, Meechan said.
Meechan and Felkner are encouraging more neighborhoods and businesses to become involved to expand the experience for kids and families. Their tips? Get creative and make it fun. There are no rules and no cost to participate, Meechan added.
“Our children have just had their worlds turned upside down,” she said. “The families in our community are adjusting to their new normal. Let’s give them something fun to look forward to.”